Italian ship rescues 65 from migrant boat fleeing Libya

An Italian offshore supply ship rescued 65 migrants, including women and children, on Saturday fleeing Libya to Europe on a crowded wooden boat.

The migrant boat was drifting after its engine stopped working and was spotted by the Seabird, an NGO surveillance plane flying over the central Mediterranean. Those on board were not wearing life jackets and were eventually rescued in international waters by the supply vessel Asso Ventinove near the Bouri oil field following a request from the Seabird. An Associated Press reporter flying with Seabird witnessed the rescue.

A Libyan Coast Guard vessel arrived at the scene shortly after to inspect the empty boat. It is common for the Libyan authorities to recover the engines after the rescues.

Asso Ventinove reported that all those rescued, including five children, appeared to be in good health. In radio communication with the Seabird, the captain said he was awaiting orders from the Rome Rescue and Coordination Center to assign them a safe place to disembark the migrants.

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So far this year, some 44,000 people have reached European shores crossing the central Mediterranean from Tunisia and Libya, often at the hands of smugglers who put them on ships in poor condition. About half of those who arrived disembarked at Lampedusa, an Italian island closer to North Africa than Italy.

Despite the increasing arrivals, many fail.

As of September 25, more than 25,000 people had been intercepted this year by EU-trained and equipped Libyan coast guards and returned to the war-torn country, according to the United Nations Migration Agency.

Once disembarked, migrants are often placed in squalid detention centers where they face extortion, torture and abuse.

More than 1,100 deaths have also been recorded by IOM in the central Mediterranean this year.

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